INA – The personal touch Rend Lake College History Instructor Henry Leeck puts on his work with the college’s Institute of Lifelong Learning is just one reason he has been named the Illinois Lifelong Learning Coalition’s Instructor of the Year.
The kid from Opdyke, nicknamed “Buster,” is now a college history instructor who typically teaches 18 hours each semester with nearly 200 students under his instruction. That doesn’t include his “above and beyond” service with the Institute and many other events, committees and organizations. He has been teaching students of the Institute since 2006.
Leeck holds a master’s in education from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He was a substitute teacher at Bluford Grade School before becoming a history instructor at RLC in 2004. He was a program technician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2004 and still serves as a substitute school bus driver for BGS.
In addition to teaching, Leeck is a member of the National Council for the Social Studies and the Illinois State Historical Society, as well as serves on numerous committees at the college.
Leeck is no doubt charmed to be the third consecutive RLC nominee to be chosen as the Lifelong Learning Coalition’s Instructor/Professor of the Year. Before him, it was Dr. Sue Santoro Tomlin, RLC Professor of Sociology and Anthroplogy in 2006. And before her – retired RLC Liberal Arts Chair Dr. Evelyn Claxton.
About Leeck, Tomlin stated, “Because I teach next door to Buster, I know what an engaging instructor he is for traditional students. I’m certain he carries those traits into his Lifelong Learning courses as well.”
“Receiving this award was both a surprise and an honor,” Leeck said. “I truly enjoy taking participants in the Institute for Lifelong Learning on journeys to faraway places using armchair tours and other events. I look forward to continuing my endeavors with [RLC Community Education Director Dawn Gibson], [Assistant Director Lori Ragland] and the Lifelong Learning participants.”
When guiding Lifelong Learning students on Armchair Tours, Leeck uses his personal experiences for inspiration. Each year, he takes RLC students on an adventure in New York City, dipping them in American culture and history with treks to Ellis Island to meet Lady Liberty, a visit to Ground Zero to learn about the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and more. His vacation to Pearl Harbor, his time in the Caribbean – they all become a part of the Armchair Tours.
“Lifelong Learning students enjoy the excitement Buster brings to the classroom, as well as the unique and intriguing historical stories he shares with his students,” it is stated in his nomination letter. “... Buster, a great instructor who uses his humor, wit and presentation style to bridge a chasm of age and bring his Lifelong students to a historical place in time with him.”
Lifelong Learning student Ann Santoro first met him at one of the Institute’s Welcome Receptions – for which the RLC Institute of Lifelong Learning earned a Coalition award in the brochure and flyer category.
“When I heard Buster was going to do a presentation on the Trail of Tears, I knew I had to attend,” Santoro stated. “He did a fantastic job of it. It made me wish I was young again and in his history classes. Had I had teachers like Buster, I would have enjoyed my history classes so much more. Rend Lake College is fortunate to have an instructor as good as Buster.”
Leeck’s boss, RLC Liberal Arts Division Chair Chris Kuberski, agrees.
“ ... Leeck demonstrates a personal commitment to learning by taking classes, traveling and volunteering,” Kuberski stated. “Furthermore, he does not wait for others to offer the opportunities; he seeks them out and often creates them himself. [Leeck] is known for his enthusiasm and willingness to contribute his time and talents for a good cause. For these reasons, [Leeck] is very deserving of recognition for his dedication to life long learning.”